St. Johns County, Florida
Florida East Coast Railway
One of the county's oldest African-American settlements was organized north of Spuds during the era. Known
variously as Armstrong and Cokesbury, the settlement was established about 1886 around a saw mill. The
name Armstrong coincided with the extension of railroad tracks through southwestern St. Johns County.
Development proceeded informally around the saw mill until 1911, when a town plan was laid out.
First Baptist Church of Armstrong
The First Baptist Church of Armstrong, an African American congregation was organized in 1910. It was
located 1/2 block East of the East Coast Railroad track. It was organized in a small frame church building
erected by the turpentine company. This burned in 1915. A frame building was erected. In 1928 this building
blew down and was re-erected. Again in 1939 it was blown down and re-erected. This church was a frame,
unpainted, country church type with a bell tower, bell and rectangular frame. The first pastor was Rev. Will
Gaynor from 1910-1913. In 1936 the pastor was Rev. R. B. McHelm.
Laying out the Town
The community of Armstrong formally began on October 5, 1912. When developers Heth Canfield and J. L.
Crary laid out of Armstrong on behalf of the Clay Bottom Farms Company, which owned a large tract of land
near the railroad station there.
Saint Mary's Methodist Episcopal Church
Saint Mary's was organized in 1914. He faced the FECR track. The small frame building was erected aby the
turpentine company. It burned in 1915. Services were held in homes until a brown, rectangular frame building
with tower and bell was erected and dedicated in 1925. Earlest known pastor was Rev. W. B. Coffee from
1917-1919. In 1937 the pastor was Rev. A. Anderson from Orange Mills Flordia.
The name Armstrong was temporarily dropped in favor of Cokesbury about 1915, but reverted to Armstrong in
Early families settling Armstrong included the Brooks, Smiths, and Lawrence's. A school was built in the early
twentieth century. Baptists organized a church in 1909 and Reverend C. E. Cook led the faithful of St. Mary's
African Methodist Episcopal Church to rebuild their sanctuary in 1925 (Bradbury and Hallock 1961:3; Plat
Book 1, p. 180, Plat Book 2, p. 14, 70, Clerk of Court, St. Johns County Courthouse; the cornerstones of the
churches indicate some of the activities of the respective congregations).
Pentecostal Assemblies of the World
A new African American congregation was organized in Armstrong near the railroad in 1936. It was organized
in a two story dwelling with the services held on the first floor. The pastor also lived in the house.
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